By Eileen Bailey and Bobby Pepper

Daily Journal

SALTILLO -If you had asked 13-year-old Nora Brown of Saltillo last week about her chances of winning the Mid-South Regional Spelling Bee in Memphis on Saturday, all she would have been able to do was hypothesize.

The Guntown eighth-grader, the daughter of Ken and Kathy Brown of Saltillo, took the title that qualifies her for the national spelling bee to be held in Washington, D.C., this spring by spelling the word “hypothesize.” Her win made her the first student from Lee County to win the regional competition.

Nora competed against 48 other students from parts of Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky in the annual spelling bee. Since 1993, Nora has taken the top spelling spot at her school. This year she also took the top spot in the Lee County School District and the Lee County spelling bees. The Lee County spelling bee includes students who win competitions in Baldwyn, Nettleton and Lee County schools.

From the county competition, the student advances to the regional competition, hosted by the Commercial Appeal newspaper.

Throughout the competition Saturday, Nora said she was nervous despite having her family and friends in the audience. “When I would go up to the podium I would see them sitting in the audience,” she said.

Nora said her parents, her brother, Ken, her grandparents K.C. and Ester Brown of Tupelo and Charles and Mareda Gusmus of Saltillo, along with her teachers and friends at school all have been supportive.

Her mother, Kathy, said even though her daughter claims to have been nervous she “look poised and confident on the outside.”

When it came down to the final two spellers, the contestant before Nora incorrectly spelled “hagiographer,” a person who studies saints. In this regional competition, Nora didn’t have to correctly spell hagiographer, but rather was given a new word – stereotomist, a rock carver. Nora spelled her word correctly to finish the round and then she had to spell on last word – hypothesize.

When the word was called, Nora, who always asks for a definition, said she knew she would spell it correctly.

Nora said her love to reading has helped her with her spelling. “It (spelling) is something I am good at because I read so much,” she said.

On the linen-covered table in her Saltillo home sits the trophy Nora received along with numerous other prizes, including an extremely large Webster’s Third World New International Dictionary which will be used to supply words at the national competition in Washington on May 26 through June 1. Nora will compete against 240 students from across the country in the national competition.

Preparing for competition

Kathy Brown said her daughter spent much of her time preparing for the competition at home. “We had studied a lot. She was prepared,” Kathy Brown said. “We studied the way we had already been studying. They give them a list of words and they did have words that weren’t on the list.”

Even though Nora claims that she is “not a bookworm” she did spend time studying for the regional competition several times a week. “There’s a lot of time getting ready for it, but she put the time in and it paid off,” Brown said of her daughter’s win. “She’s a hard worker.”

Sitting in the audience Saturday, Kathy Brown said she watched excitedly. “Even during their break, she was smiling,” Brown said. “She said, I’m having fun.’ If anything, I think she really enjoyed it more.”

As the numbers began to dwindle Brown said the level of excitement rose. “Of course it was stressful. But toward the end, I could tell she was just hanging right in there and did fine,” Kathy Brown said.

Guntown Principal Harvey Brooks was also in the audience at the event. “I think she did exceptionally well,” Brooks said. Nora was greeted Monday morning with a sign, flowers and hugs from students and faculty, he said. “I plan to take her to lunch at the place of her choice this week,” he said.

Brown’s win at the regional level will hopefully spark an interest for other students to do well not only in spelling but in other subjects as well, Brooks said. “It will hopefully show our students that we can compete with other students on every level,” he said.

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